The Deuce: Season Finale Review


Girl must have been in a hurry, I guess. – C.C.

I said last week, and I had finished screening the season a few weeks back, that I likely wouldn’t be covering The Deuce following the finale. As good a show as it is, I’m not “entertained” by it. I’m engrossed, but I also don’t sense the audience being particularly huge for it, and I’d rather have fun or feel a truly emotional pull to what I’m viewing and writing about for you. That said, I also pointed out how well-done the finale was, and now you know.

David Simon and George Pelecanos did a masterful job with last night’s season ender, and again, I may revisit my decision when Season 2 nears. The darkness of the show makes it so difficult to consume, and I can tell you, it’s a terrible show to try and binge. The bleakness and the tough-to-take moments simply leave you feeling ugly, or they certainly leave me feeling that way.

Again, however, this was tremendous drama, and as soon as you see “Directed by Michelle MacLaren,” you should stop what you’re doing and pay attention. In the world of drama, no one does the heavy stuff better, and she had quite a script with which to depict the sadness of the final sequences of the year.

Ruby, AKA “Thunder Thighs” took her final bow as she was pushed out of a window, crashing down to the street below, where she died instantly. The fact that she landed on the same sidewalks she and her colleagues plied their trade was not an accident, and it was another example of what this life leads to, legal or illegal. In a business where morality is a dirty word, nothing is off limits.

That might mean sexually transmitted diseases, it might mean a stab wound, it might mean robbery, it might mean drug abuse, or it might mean murder. When some kind of faith, some kind of belief in a code is tossed out of a window, it stands to reason that humanity can follow. That’s precisely what we saw as Ruby plunged to her death in a horribly sad moment.

It was preceded a few moments before with Candy screaming to try and get Ruby’s attention as she was on her way to a movie premiere with Harvey. Her friend didn’t hear her, and she watched as Ruby climbed in the car with the john that would end up being her last. This showcased two things, first that the life is the life, and also that as Candy as departed from the streets, she may have also lost relationships in her life. We saw a few weeks ago the close friendship the two had, so imagine how card she’s going to take it at this stage.

I must also point out Pernell Walker’s performance this season, as though she didn’t have many lengthy scenes, “Thunder Thighs” stood out as memorable, and her work had both the delicacy and the aggression it needed at varying times. She will be missed, but she was excellent.

One friendship broken for good, and another might be as well, as Chris Alston chooses not to give Sandra what she needs to keep her story from becoming nothing more than a human interest story. Washington leaves the car in a huff, fighting off tears, and Chris knows his girl may be gone for good as well. In the end though, Alston did what he had to do. When the captain tells him he has his back, but to be careful, asking him where he hopes to end up when the dust settled, her fate was sealed. Alston’s career means the world to him, especially if he had the sense she was using him more than she was in it for the long haul.

Vincent Martino has never been a fan of the massage parlor association, but Bobby, Frankie, and Rudy are making money hand over fist, and here comes another location. Vinny is more than a little displeased, as he spent the vast majority of the finale in disagreements over business ventures. Abby wants him to back Paul’s downtown establishment, but as much as he likes Paul, he’s reticent to get involved in anything else. You can’t entirely blame him, as he’s working to make The Hi-Hat a force in The Deuce, and he did like the live music angle.

He also chose to avenge his ex-wife’s beating with a pool cue, and he had Longo in toe for the assault. It was a tough hour for Vinny, as he also nearly ended up cleaning up after an execution above his own bar. Luckily, that ended without ultimate bloodshed, but again, Martino is in deep in multiple situations where there’s no escape.

Candy is a natural in the porn business, and she makes the girls feel comfortable. Rather than make a power play against her, Harvey embraces her talent, and even lets her finish up the day at the helm once he arrives late following automobile issues. The chemistry, not sexual, but on-screen between David Krumholtz and Maggie Gyllenhaal has been exquisite, as both feed off each other naturally.

It’s a David Simon show, and that means a Clarke Peters appearance. Only time will tell if “Ace” was a one-off, but we discover the beloved veteran of The Wire and Treme as a retired pimp that mentored C.C. We won’t hold that against him, but we probably should. Here’s a question for you regarding that relationship though. When does mentoring cease? If you look at C.C.’s eyes as Ace leaves the restaurant with a smile and a blonde on his arm, you see the future.

Ace didn’t leave with a girl, he left with THE woman he chose for his life. C.C. then glances over across the restaurant and sees Lori, who we’ve known for a while he fancies. She’s a very pretty girl and one that could challenge him, provided he allows for it. Ace mentions he saw the writing on the wall, his knees are hurting, and he’s slowed down. He’s moved into the second and final half of his life, where what once was important now is meaningless.

This was the first time we’ve seen C.C. in any type of subservient or childlike position. He respects Ace, and hopefully he’ll listen to him. If he doesn’t, Ashley’s life may still be in danger. It was still a moment of hope, just as last week gave us positivity. We don’t know how it will end, but C.C. watching his idol walk away from the game into a fulfilling existence may have left an impression.

The montage at the end of the episode was a thing of beauty, and brought back memories of the best finishes of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and any number of other classics. Larry Brown unable to eat the apple pie, Sandra seeing her “Tricks of the Trade” story buried, Alston at work, the money moving in at the parlor, Bobby cheating on his wife, C.C. and Lori together (but doing blow) as Reggie’s old girl watches, Darlene dressed as a candy striper in one of Harvey’s films, and then Vincent and Abby waking up together.

All of this crystalized and contextualized where each key player is at that point in time, post Ruby. Finally, we see Bernice come to get condoms for her parlor room. Then, the jukebox music dies out. She walks into her room and closes the door as MacLaren pulls back her camera, further and further away from the lobby door, we go to dead silence, and the season ends.

Phenomenal episode and a terrific finish. Sex is lucrative in 1970s New York, and still in 2017. It can also be deadly, and the toll it takes on these women’s lives (and increasingly on the men’s souls) is the REAL story of The Deuce.

Sex sells…and it costs.

I’m @JMartOutkick. It ain’t me, Rudy. I’m out.